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The 2 Johnnies take their mix of hyper-patriotism and banger songs to the big stage

Podcasting pair’s 3Arena show is not everyone’s idea of a cultural night out, but the audience leaves with smiles and sore feet

The 2 Johnnies



You could almost see the sadness in Brian McFadden’s eyes as he scanned the sold-out crowd at the 3Arena.

“We used to fill this place,” the former Westlife member reminisced to the audience who technically weren’t there to see him and Boyzone alumni Keith Duffy bash out their greatest hits.

In a sign of the times, the pop sensations were just a sidebar to the real stars of the show – a former Supervalu employee and hurl maker from Tipperary who started a podcast.


Shifting a podcast, even one as wildly successful as The 2 Johnnies, from the intimacy of two friends having the craic on a microphone to a live audience setting can be a risky business with no guaranteed results.

Up to now, their latest attempt foraying their banter from something you listen to in the car to something you bother your hole to sit down and watch was in the form of their RTÉ TV show

One fan Catherine from Dublin tells me she thought it was “sh**e” and took the time to message Johnny B personally on social media to tell him so.

“Television doesn’t suit them,” she said before sagely advising her friend to order two drinks each as we stood in the long bar line because “it’s better to be looking at them than looking for them”.

Despite her misgivings about their TV performance, she expected good things from tonight’s show. “They can be themselves” on the podcast, away from what fans seem to think are the damaging limitations put on the “lads” by their mainstream media employer.

It’s something The 2 Johnnies seem keen to encourage, starting the show straight out the gate with “things you can’t say on the radio” – which hints they’ve been sitting on a leftover pile of comedy gold they’ve been unable to share with us from their day jobs.

Instead, it turns out to be rhyming jokes about “riding your sister in Killester” which is about as edgy as an unfinished schoolyard limerick.

But they have the crowd laughing early on as Johnny B waves hello to his mammy with “she loves when I do podcasts about f***ering”.

Two hours in a huge arena is a long time to fill with just chat to keep an audience captive. Pre-recorded video messages from Johnny Smacks’s wife Annie and awkward press photos let the lads roast each other. The show starts with the intimacy of a friendly Whatsapp group slagging in a big stadium, which is no easy feat.

Just as we’re getting going, the pacing is interrupted when we’re made to watch a ‘here’s-one-we-made-earlier’ video segment of the lads doing a Soccer Am-style football challenge with former Irish goalkeeper Shay Given.

Asking the audience to watch creator-style content that feels more at home on Youtube or Tiktok on a large screen during a live event is jarring. It feels like being forced to watch someone’s wedding video when you go over to their house and you’re not sure if you’re allowed to talk or not.

A hurling segment that involves indoor hurling and targets strapped to “Neill the Intern’s” genitals has the ‘enforced fun’ feel of their TV show rather than the natural hilarity of the podcast.

Some aspects like this of the show are more ‘filler’ while traditional elements from the podcast like Noel’s News keeps a balanced measure of ‘killer’.

There’s an argument to make the delightful Dub or Culchie? – a segment where a random audience member is put on a turning pedestal and the crowd determines his or her origin from giveaways such as “he’s a culchie – he’s got hands in his pockets in case he has to spend money” – into a standalone gameshow.

Musical guests including rapping trad group Chasing Abbey and Boyzlife interspersed at decent intervals keep the craic going and the crowd on their feet.

A highlight of the evening was Tiktok darling Garron Noone coming out to perform the closest thing Irish people have to the Haka – the Rattlin’ Bog.

Production-wise we had pyrotechnics, fire dancers, live bands, light shows and a lot of Irish flag visuals. At one point all the marching women with Irish flags and black leather tights, the 1916 or Civil War visuals and the rousing renditions of Come Out Ye Black and Tans give off the feeling of a rally.

“I WILL DIE,” yells one man sitting near me passionately as Grace plays but hopefully it won’t come to that as the lads swing back into their own tunes about small-town life towards the end.

It’s hyper-patriotism interspersed with bangers of songs you’d hear at the end of a wedding. For What Died the Sons of Roisin? In this case it’s confetti cannons and jokes about junior B hurling.

While songs that rhyme Joe Biden with ridin’ are not going to be everyone’s idea of a cultural night out, the audience left the show with smiles and sore feet.

Bryan from Kerry said for him the show was well worth the “extortionate” price of a Dublin hotel in December as we made our way to the exits. Which for an act unashamedly pitched at “culchies” is the only standard of measurement that matters.

In an unexpected coda, Johnny B posted to fans on Instagram later in the night that Johnny Smacks was in hospital with a fractured hand. “He’s ok! Smashed guitars and broken bones. What’s a 2 Johnnies gig without a few broken hurleys,” he said.

Brianna Parkins

Brianna Parkins

Brianna Parkins is an Irish Times columnist